Oregon Trail Vaudeville Tour!

Enterprise Oregon is a cute little town of Wallowa country, located about as far in northeastern Oregon as possible. With a population of 2,000 and small quaint downtown area, our massive colorful musical presence was all the more felt. We had a bunch of locals join the parade, children on bikes, cops happily clearing the way, and passerby’s hopping in just for the sake of it. Our stay here was symbiosis at it’s finest. Everybody was very friendly and hospitable, with lots of mingling with locals. We camped in the lawn at the elementary school, a 5-minute walk from downtown. The Wallowa County Music Alliance was our sponsor and they did a fantastic job. Ten of the best for them, 123 go! (This is where we all clap 10 times as fast as possible all together to celebrate something or somebody awesome. It’s a Chautauqua tradition, now you know.)

A parade a day keeps the blues away

We performed at two senior centers, one in Enterprise and one in Joseph. As usual they were very inspiring. The people seem to just come to life with our presence. After one show, Molliwog the Clown was blowing bubbles. An old man in a wheelchair followed her around and was popping them. Hints of a smile crept out of his tired old face and with each pop it grew a little more. This went on for 10 or 15 minutes, even some of the nurses were watching with awe. They said this is the most interaction they had seen from him in years.

Eben and Harry sing at the Senior Center

The workshops were held at an event called Watershed Festival, and they were well attended.  We got to do a concert there as well, alternating between the Fighting Instruments of Karma Marching Chamber Band/Orchestra and smaller string based singy-songy tunes.

We performed our big show in the oldest theatre in Oregon to a nearly sold out audience. They were one of the loudest most enthusiastic crowds I’ve ever seen. A fun moment was when our MC Harry asked the crowd,

“What do you call yourselves in Enterprise?”

“Outlaws!” yelled someone. It’s the high school mascot and the whole theatre erupted in laughter. It was really one of those nights you know? Where they just keep clapping and cheering us on, so we bring it even harder and that just magnifies off itself until the show ends with 51 clubs flying through the air in a breathtaking moment of geometric juggling beauty. Hup! Hey! We caught every single one to turn and face a roaring standing ovation. Afterwards we got great feedback from the locals. Somebody said to us, “Your show was more fun the Cirque du Solei” We’ll take it! Which brings up another good point.

We certainly aren’t better than Cirque du Solei, but more FUN was what he said. That’s because WE are having fun, lots of it, unbounded uncontainable bursts of joyful play, beaming smiles, merry songs, wacky jokes and a reverence for the silly. Yes the silly! We try not to take ourselves too seriously, we are the butt of our own jokes, and I think that mentality helps create the cheery playful atmosphere everywhere we go. Throughout our shared experiences we manifest our own festive group attitude, the campfire songs and jokes, the wisecracks at meetings, giggling at wrong turns, fake camera’s bouncing off cement, mad cheering for rock paper scissor tournaments, a pie in the face of the birthday boy as he does a handstand, and so on, all of these things add up to a certain unique energy that just flows right out into the world around us.

Happy Kids!

Were about 10 days into tour now and the freshness has worn off a little. We started seeing our first bits and pieces of grumpiness here and there. The kitchen sign up sheet is getting filled a little slower than before. Parade and show preparations seem more hectic and the lost and found box is getting full. I think this always happens about halfway through, but it seems pretty mild this time around. Morale is high, and there’s been virtually no drama. “Somebody didn’t put the soup in the Tupperware last night!” Oh the despair!

It’s always interesting to compare and contrast different tour years. Each one is totally different but they’re all kind of similar. Parade, workshops, show, repeat, cook, clean, camp, repeat. But every repetition is unique. This tour is certainly MUCH easier than Alaska. Our drives between towns are only 2-3 hours. The weather has been fantastic and everybody is getting along well. We don’t have a bus this year, which is an interesting development. We cruise around in a caravan of personal vehicles and a packed full Uhaul. There are some advantages in flexibility, but I miss the community building that happens on the bus. When we are all packed into a little space together rolling off to the next adventure, our creativity seems to amplify off each other and the bus walls. Not so much this time, but the car rides offer the ability for people to get to know each other in a more intimate way. These are my observations.

On that note I should add that this blog is my attempt to synthesize the group mind, our collective feelings and actions as if we are one. But of course this is impossible as I am inescapably me. Everybody has a different interpretation, so I give you mine, in my halfway efforts at objectivity.

Anyway, we had a day off in Enterprise and holy Fantastico was it awesome. Everbody did something different, but the two most popular options were hiking and tram riding. From Wallowa Lake a number of folk took the oldest tram in Oregon up to the top of a mountain with 360-degree panoramic views of mountains, valleys, lakes and rivers. Many others went hiking up Hurricane Creek to Slick Rock. Glacier carved mountains rose up on either side of the crystal clear stream with waterfalls pouring off them and sweet cirrus clouds flowing over the horizon. Black streaks of basalt cut across striated granite layers in strange directions, evidence of long ago volcanic activity. At around 6,000 feet elevation, it was like going back into spring. Wildflowers we’re in full bloom and the plant diversity was incredible. As we ascended the trail an old cowboy came gracefully riding up on a horse and shared some local history.

Eagle Cap Wilderness Hike

We were treading on ancient Nez Perce land. The women used to birth their children in the pools of the stream to which we were headed. The bones of their ancestors are still in the hills. The story is a sad and familiar one. In the 1860’s the Nez Perce were asked to sign a treaty selling their land, Wallowa Valley to the whites, and to head to a tiny reservation in Idaho. Chief Joseph refused. “Our land is not for sale,” he said. So he and his people were chased away into harsh winter conditions. The survivors were eventually captured deep in Idaho near the Canada border. Their summer home for thousands of years, Wallowa Valley now belonged to the whites. We said goodbye to the old cowboy and with hardly a motion he and his horse rode away.

Yesterday we arrived in Pendleton Oregon, home of the historic Pendleton Roundup. Some of us came early to plug the show, parade and workshops. Yesterday we got to participate in their annual Weiner Dog races, which was hilarious! A juggler race down the silly little track downtown followed by a quick teaser show, and promo, promo, promo! But I’ll save those details for the Pendleton entry. Our big show is tonight and we’re getting excited.

Yes friends it’s The New Old Time Chautauqua alright, and there really is nothing like it. Were a big traveling family and were all here for each other. Life is life and emotions wax and wane but overall we are having an amazing time. Our lives beyond Chautauqua seem to fade away as we sink deeper into the moment and the mission. Like the Hokey Pokey really is what it’s all about. Like the gleam of the clowns nose, and the juggler’s eye is more than just another sparkle. It’s a sparkle with a message, “Hey You! Life is Fun! Love Love Love!”

Sincerely,

Dr. Bonkers

Us!

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